5 Exercises for the Hamstrings
Much more than other muscle groups, hamstring muscles can easily become the most neglected ones. Many beginners do some leg curl at the end of their leg workout and close it there; others don't even do that, and they don't do any exercises for the hamstrings and the back of the thighs in general at all.
The reason behind this neglect is mainly the fact that these muscle groups are difficult to make visible and do not attract as much attention as two beautiful biceps or a sculpted abs. Despite this, poor back thigh development and disproportionate quadriceps to hamstring strength ratio increases the risk of quadriceps and knee injuries.
Therefore, even if you are not so concerned about your hamstrings from an aesthetic point of view, you should still give them the utmost attention regarding the physiological aspect of the body.
Read on to find out how to best master 5 of the hardest exercises for this part of your body, and turn a weakness into a strength!
The Anatomy of the Hamstrings
The back of the thigh is made up of three muscles:
? The Femoral Biceps, which extend into the outermost part of the thigh.
? The Semitendinosus, which extends into the innermost part of the thigh.
? The Semimembranosum, which is located under the semitendinosus.
The main function of this part of the thigh is to both flex the knee, i.e. when this joint is bent (e.g. in the leg curl), is to extend the hip as it moves backwards (eg the deadlift with straight legs). Therefore, to maximize the stimulus on this muscle group, both of these movements will need to be added to your training program.
You should also pay attention to the fact that the muscles that make up the back of the thigh can be trained in a specific way by varying the position of the feet during the exercises:
? With the feet turned inward you will have more stimulation on the inner thigh (semitendinoso e membranoso).
? With the feet turned outwards you will have more stimulation on the outer part of the thigh (hamstrings).
You can also train this part of the thigh at different angles and lengths. This topic will be covered in the analysis, proposed below, of the five toughest exercises for the rear thigh.
It's time to enter the scene!
1. Straight Leg Deadlifts
A multi-joint movement and fundamental for the back thigh, buttocks and back muscles, handed down from the old school. This exercise is all about a stretch under a nice weight load, combined with slow negatives, which will make your rear thigh beg for mercy.
The downside is that after a few straight-legged deadlifts, even the spinal erectors pay the consequences, who do hard work to keep their back aligned
This can cause injury; therefore perfect execution is essential. Don't focus on loading as much weight as you can, until you understand the execution well and learn to stimulate the back of the thigh more than the back.
? Stand in front of a barbell, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
? Contract your abdomen, push your chest out, keeping your back straight, and bend your knees until you can reach the bar.
? Grab the bar with a prone grip (thumbs facing each other), make sure your grip is slightly wider than the shoulders and also use the bar rings as a reference point to keep the handle on the bar from changing.
? Make sure your grip is firm, your abs and lower back tight, chest out and back straight. Fix your gaze on a point in front of you, inhale and hold your breath.
Step by step:
a) Begin to raise the bar off the ground extending the hips: movement remembers a hip thrust. The legs should be slightly bent, but remain stiff and not change angles during the movement.
b) Once your hips are fully extended, contract your glutes and stop the movement before your back is fully extended. At this point, exhale and hold the position for 2 seconds, contracting the back of the thigh and buttocks to the maximum.
c) In a controlled manner, lower the bar by flexing your hips. While doing this, maintain correct posture: head up, back straight, chest out, abdomen contracted.
d) Just before the bar hits the ground, pause for 2 seconds, allowing the entire back of your thigh to stretch well, before inhaling and slowly return to the starting position. Remember to keep your legs stiff.
Series and repetitions: 3-4 sets x 12-10-8-6 reps. with pyramidal method to gain weight.
Based on how you do this exercise, it can go to stimulate the back of the thigh or the back more. Learning about this slight difference may seem difficult, but you will not regret the efforts you will make to come to understand it.
Hyperextensions can be a very effective hip flexion movement that undoubtedly does not tire your central nervous system as much as deadlifts. It also allows you to perform a high number of repetitions, stimulating slow twitch muscle fibers and resulting in a bargain for metabolic stress.
? Fix the hyperextension bench lock so that it is 2-4 cm below the hips.
? Lie down on the bench, securing your heels to the foot block.
? Cross your arms across your chest and push your chest out so your back is aligned.
Phase by phase:
a) Keeping the legs almost stiff, slowly bring your torso down, pushing your hips back and concentrating on the stretch of the hind-thigh.
b) Go down as far as possible without pain (some discomfort is normal) e maintaining the elongation reached for 2 seconds.
c) Push your heels against the foot block and squeeze your buttocks to bring your torso up.
d) Stop before your back realigns with your pelvis. Stay a little bent forward, keeping the tension in the buttocks and back of the thigh. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position.
Series and repetitions: 3-5 sets x rip to failure.
You can do this exercise one-sided (one leg at a time). Simply put one heel under the foot block and place the other foot on top of the foot block. This variant will greatly increase the intensity of your workout and promote the muscle-mind connection.
3. Raise from the floor for the buttocks and back of the thigh
This exercise will cause the entire posterior chain of your body to become inflamed: glutes, hamstrings, calves and back included. You probably won't need any weight other than your own body weight to fully stimulate the back of the thigh. The movement will also force you to hold onto the negative… unless you want to crash to the ground like a wet rag.
The buttock and back-thigh raises can be performed on a particular bench or on the floor with the assistance of another person, or even by planting the feet under something (e.g. with the bar of the smith machine lowered and locked). Noting that many of the classic commercial gyms do not have a bench for the buttock and hamstring lifts, we will focus on the floor version.
? Kneel on the ground efyou can assist another person to grab your ankles and keep them pressed to the floor.
? Line up your back and hips and cross your arms in front of your chest.
For beginners: Bend your toes towards the knees (as in the photo) to engage the calves and make movement easier.
For Intermediate / Advanced: Keep the toes straight to avoid involvement of the calves, thus making the exercise harder and isolating the back of the thigh more.
Phase by phase:
a) Contract your glutes and slowly lower yourself, extending your knees, but not flexing your hips.
b) When you are about to hit the ground, place your arms in front of you to avoid falling on your face.
c) Push yourself slowly off the floor flexing the knees and focusing on the contraction of the buttocks and back of the thigh. Your back should always be level and almost stiff.
d) Stop before losing the muscle tension in the back of the thighs and buttocks, e hold the contraction for a second before returning to the starting position.
Sets and reps: 3-5 sets x rip to failure.
If you are struggling too much with this exercise, you may want to try helping yourself with a small barbell or rod. Use these tools simply to push yourself away from the floor and to lower yourself, always keeping tension on the buttocks and the back of the thighs.
4. Seated Leg Curl
When done correctly, this exercise is the only variation of the leg curl, which works the back of the thigh to the right length, stretching the upper part of this muscle group and contracting the lower one. In order to optimize the execution of this exercise, some modifications are required as described below.
Try and decide if this exercise is rightly among the “5 hardest exercises for hamstring muscles”.
The most modern seated leg curl machines allow you to adjust the backrest, the height of the seat and the distance from the padded lever behind your feet. Therefore:
* Set the backrest in such a way that your knees are aligned with the tip of the lever handle and with the height of the seat, so that the back of the thigh is almost completely elongated.
* Set the padded lever so that it is a few inches below the calves.
*Block the padded cylinder against the thighs.
? Place your hands on the padded cylinder, but do not squeeze the handles (you will tire faster and without any benefit for the back of the thigh).
? Sit down without leaning your back against the backrest.
Phase by phase:
a) Bring your feet as far back as you can while in the meantime contract the back of the thigh and lean forward until it forms a 45 ° angle between the torso and the floor.
b) Hold the contraction for 2 seconds.
c) Slowly and in a controlled manner, return to the starting position, without allowing the load to touch the weight plates of the machine.
d) Hold the stretch for a secondor before going on with the reps.
Sets and reps: 3-4 x 10-12 rip.
If your gym is not equipped with an appropriate seated leg curl machine, you can mimic the movement of this exercise by using a chair and a resistance band. Very simply, you sit on the chair with one end of the band around your heels and the other tied to something solid in front of you.
5. Lying Down Leg Curl
This is another exercise on the "curl" model for the back of the thigh, which can also get harder and more effective with some tweaks. Unlike the standing leg curl, this motion allows you to have a large range of motion, or so it is in most cases, based on how the machines are designed.
You should also know that The Lying Leg Curl works the back of the thigh into a shortened position and makes it possible to train one leg at a time with a simple change in the position of the feet.
? Set the machine at your height, so that your knees are on the edge of the table top and the padded lever is a few inches below your calves.
? Lie on your stomach on the machine and concentrate on bringing your hips towards the bench to prevent your buttocks from rising.
Phase by phase:
a) Grab the handles for better stability and remember once again not to squeeze them too tightly.
b) Push your heels back as far as you can, but don't arch your back or lift your glutes.
c) Contract the hind-thigh to the maximum e hold the tension for a second.
d) Drop the load in a slow and controlled manner and stop for a second at the lowest point of the movement, making the muscles stretch.
Sets and reps: 3-4x 6-8 rip.
You can perform this exercise one leg at a time and finish with forced negative repetitions.Once you reach failure, perform the exercise with both legs and drop the weight with only one of them (the other leg returns to the starting position only when the weight is lifted again).
Example of training sheet
Workout for the back of the thigh (back-thigh)
Leg Curl Seduto: 3 x 10
Leg Curl Sdraiato: 3 x 6-8
Buttock raises: 3 x rep. to cedimeto
Hyperextension on one side: 3 x 10
Deadlifts with straight legs: 3 x 12-10-8
A tip not to be forgotten
Considering the psychological role of this muscle group, Properly set hamstring training should include both hip extension movements (eg, straight leg deadlifts) and knee bending (eg leg curls). The former can be more difficult for beginners as they also involve the back muscles.
In short words, if your lower back gives way before your back thigh, it means that you are not doing the exercise correctly!
All variations of the leg curl, alike, require practically perfect execution for excellent stimulation of the back of the thigh. So, focus on the right execution technique before breaking gym records. Try our example workout program for this muscle group and let us know if you can get into your pants again later!